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Monday, May 19, 2014

In this House of Brede by Rumer Godden

In this House of Brede, Rumer Godden

I studied throughout in a Catholic convent. Though the influence of the nuns was tremendous I had very little personal contact with them and after reading this book I regret that.

Absolutely beautifully written, a tough subject sensitively handled. Phillips is an unusual addition to an enclosed order. She comes in her mid 30s, having held a high powered job, giving it up and all the power it embodied to enter the order where the order of humility was of paramount importance. The nuns she encounters are like normal human beings. Rough, brusque, jealous, envious of her calm facade, envious of her knowledge and education which places her miles above the rest. Never mind that she never ever flaunts this! At the same time there are nuns who are appreciative and kind who understand the mind numbing hardships that Phillipa is undergoing during her initial years.

The head of this House passes away and as the new Head is elected in a turbulent election, very reminiscent of a political appointment, the new Head is faced with a problem of embarrassing and difficult proportions. Monies which should have been there as deposits and on whose interest the monastery would have run most comfortably, are empty. The scandal cannot be hidden from higher authorities and scapegoats have to be found to account for the empty coffers. The former Head with the idea of grand edifices has ordered sculptures from a world renowned artiste to bring glory to the convent for generations to come, not caring for the day to day running of the Convent and her trusted deputy has been siphoning funds to a prolifigate brother hoping he would return the funds one day.

Apart from the workings of an enclosed order (which was an eye opener), the story of relationships amongst a group of women totally enclosed in their own little world with little or no contact with  the outside world, and how even in the more rarefied atmosphere of sanctity and holiness, human failings of the most ordinary kind can appear and there is amongst the highest or rather whom we think of as the best, those with feet of clay.

I read this book on Open Library through a recommendation from Cornflower Books. This is a book I will go back to maybe in another year or two.

Yesterday I tried three times to do my Monday post of Mailbox Monday and It's Monday! what are you reading? All attempts failed when I tried to put the images of book covers in the post. I got some really good books through Netgalley. Still out of Colombo and all posts from my IPad.


  1. Another one for my 'must read' list! (And I think you're doing to well to type this much on an ipad - I give up really quickly!)

  2. I have often wondered what the lives of cloistered nuns would be like. Two of our high school nuns went to a cloistered Carmelite order and I often think of them. I'll have to look the book up. Thanks for the review.

  3. what a fantastic sounding book - thanks for introducing it, Mystica!
    I once spent an evening with cloistered nuns in England, and rode from Scotland to England bringing a cloistered nun back to her home - fascinating...

  4. I haven't read this author yet but this is one of the ones I'm really looking forward too.

  5. Thanks for sharing the title Mystica!